Heist review by Matt Fuerst

I think I was about 16 or 17 when I decided that I wanted my career to be in computers. I was pretty good working on them, a quick study if you will, and studied with my focus in that direction. Several jobs and internships, a couple years of college later and I am gainfully employed in my profession of choice. Around the same time, I decided that my second career would be as a safecracker & jewel thief. Like my day job, I have been studying as much as I can to prepare for my next endeavor. Of course, the public library doesn't have books such as "Safecracking for Dummies" or "24 Capers in 24 Hours" (I looked) so I am stuck with whatever filmmakers decide to show me in film. When David Mamet released Heist onto the world I was pretty excited. Mamet, a master of dialogue. Hackman, whom one Jackass called the best living actor. Hell we've even got Delroy Lindo and Danny DeVito kicking up a fuss. It sounded like a winner. I've watched Heist three times since it has been released, and still enjoy the film greatly. The plot, quickly sketched out, goes a little something like this:

Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) is a professional thief (I'm so jealous). Using a well placed plant at a restaurant (his wife Fran), he manages to get the inside track on a jewelry store. Joe and the members of his crew, Don 'Pinky' Pincus (Ricky jay) and Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo) enter the jewelry store. However all doesn't go to plan and Joe gets "burnt". His face is exposed on camera and he knows his number is up. Time to leave town, give up the business. He just needs the money from this score and then he's heading south, Fran in hand.

Did I mention this is a David Mamet film, so of course there are twists along the way. Bergman (Danny DeVito), the fence for the stolen goods, screws Joe out of the money for the job, but promises him an unbelievable amount of money for one last job - "The Swiss Thing". Joe knows damn well that Bergman has screwed him over once and will screw him over again, but doesn't have any good options in front of him. He's burnt, he's got no cash, and he's ready to get lost somewhere in the Caribbean. Time for the cliched and completely appropriate one last job. Joe meets again with Bergman and makes the arrangements. Joe gets a portion of the money from the previous job in exchange for Bergman planting his guy, Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) in Joe's crew. Joe and his team are of course a meticulous bunch when it comes to the planning stages. This portion of the movie really shines as it gives some really great insight into the minds of these criminals. It's really hard to imagine, but these people steal for a living, and take it very seriously. Likely much more seriously than you or I take our jobs since when we have a bad day we skip out of work early or hide in the bathroom for the last 2 hours of work. Instead, Joe and crew are facing the rest of their lives in the hole (see I even start talking like a criminal when I'm all juiced up). A great deal of planning, measuring, and replanning occurs down to every detail. Not surprisingly, the planted guy, Jimmy Silk, is a hindrance to the team and ends up causing more trouble than good. Eventually "The Swiss Thing" goes down, with crosses, double crosses, and double recrosses flying around like they are popcorn kernels in the popper. Again, this being a Mamet film, we don't ever really know who's genuine and who is stabbing each other in the back. We follow Joe throughout the process, but in many ways Bobby and Pinky are equal partners in the investment in the film. I'll save the actual content of "The Swiss Thing" for the film, but it quite a spectacular caper and one you will be very pleased with the execution of. Undoubtedly the hardest read in the film is the relationship between Joe and his wife Fran. Fran is much younger than Joe and, as Rob Gordon says in High Fidelity "You've got to punch your own weight."; She is quite the hottie. Early in the film Fran returns from showing off Joe's boat (his cover/day job is a custom boat shop). She's wearing quite a revealing outfit and the customer has quite the silly smile on his face. Tension is present. Has something happened between Fran and the customer? Joe seems aware of the tension, but is indifferent to it. Bergman's plant, Jimmy Silk, obviously has more than a passing interest in Fran, but Joe doesn't seem to mind, and in fact decides to use this to the crews advantage. Where do Fran's real loyalties lie? Unlike the usual handling of this type of situation, Joe just seems completely indifferent to the idea that Fran would stray from what Joe would want her to do. Ever since In the Line of Fire, Clint Eastwood has been casting himself opposite younger and younger female leads, and it has been getting more and more ridiculous with each release. While on paper the situation is similar here, it's handled completely differently. Instead, everyone around Joe seems to very aware of the bizarre relationship they have.

I'm ready to come clean as well during this review. I'm tired of holding this one in. I think Delroy Lindo is a great actor. While he hasn't achieved leading man status in major releases, everything he is in I seem to greatly enjoy his contributions. Delroy and Turkish from Snatch in The One were, without a doubt, the highlight of that movie. In this flick Mr. Lindo plays Bobby Blane, and he really delivers the goods. We learn through dialogue that Bobby has been in the can at least once, and isn't about to go back. While being part of Joe's crew, he contributes equally with Joe to the plan. They know each other well and can read off each others queues naturally in handling any situation. *SLIGHT SPOILER* There is a scene where the crew is trying to ditch Jimmy Silk, and they pretend to break up and not do "The Swiss Thing". There is this sense to the audience that something is odd about Bobby's mannerisms, he is almost overacting, much like a thief probably really would do in real life in the same situation, really trying to sell the break up to Jimmy Silk. *END SPOILERS* It's really quite well done. The DVD release of Heist is a pretty flimsy sadly. It includes the original theatrical trailer and a cast filmography (for a whole three of the cast members. They couldn't hit IMDB for a couple more people?). The video on the release is quite nice however. It is framed appropriately at 1.85:1. The colors are quite nice, there isn't too much in terms of vivids in a story like this, but the various settings are appropriately done. The sound is done well enough for this story. Dialogue is clear and nice. There is a bit of an action segment at the end that is disappointing, but this isn't Rambo. Overall a barebones release, but what is present is very high quality. It's March 2003 as I write this, and at every Blockbuster in my area that I have been too has multiple (sometimes a dozen or more) copies of Heist sitting on their used shelves at $9.99. If you're considering a purchase it is probably wise to check your local Blockbuster.

Of course, with David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Spanish Prisoner) you do enter into his world. Earth as it exists in a Mamet film is a place where everyone has trim and witty dialogue prepare at all times. It sounds prepared, it is prepared, and doesn't make excuses for that. You have to relax yourself and enjoy it and not get caught up in the, at times, the perfect delivery of the perfect line at the perfect time. There aren't any stutterers in David Mamet's world. But that's OK, but we are really caught up in the world of mystery and intrigue. As I mentioned previously, there is a bit of an action sequence near the end of Heist, and guess what? It's a slow moving sequence. Gene Hackman (tries to) run, Delroy Lindo limps and gets hurt. It isn't glamorous. Doves don't fly in the air. Hackman wastes a whole clip shooting at the side of a shipping box. But it's true. It's probably one of the truest gunfights you will see on film.

So up until this point I have kept my feelings on the film to a minimum, so if you've read this far I imagine you want to know if I think you should spend two hours of your life watching it. The answer is a resounding yes. You'll be entertained with the characters, the settings, and the capers. I wish the disc could have provided some more extras, but I picked mine up for $6 (I've got a super secret deal with Blockbuster, don't tell anyone) and it was well worth it.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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